20:20 Vision at Camden People’sCultureTheatre
The last two decades have been challenging ones for those at the grass-roots coalface of the arts, so Camden People’s Theatre have reason to celebrate having reached the grand old age of 20. To mark the milestone, an open call for submissions exploring the world the theatre has grown up in, and how it may change in the years to come, has yielded a varied bill of work-in-progress pieces presented to audiences as 20:20 Vision: a tasting menu of performance art.
First up tonight is Kerrie Reading’s Turning the Spotlight on the People, in which the performance artist tells the tale of CPT’s evolution alongside allusions to events in the wider world and reflections on the process of taking stock of one’s personal history. Atmospheric and punchy, with neat use of music, movement and minimal prop budget, the work is an effective celebration of the power of people, in that it demonstrates the power within one person to hold an audience’s attention.
With Human Basic, Thomas Martin presents an early draft of a story-show investigating the future of collective and personal identity in an advancing electronic age. By definition at this embryonic stage, the piece lacks the cohesion and polish of the other works on display tonight, but Martin’s charm and ability to blend a Douglas Adams-esque flair for surrealist humour (watch out for the love scene between a brick and a cone of blue smoke) with more challenging imagery marks this project out as one to keep an eye on.
The second half of the evening requires the audience to relocate to the CPT’s sweltering basement for Archipelago, an interactive piece from Hobo Theatre in which the audience are divided among three imagined islands and asked to live out 40 years managing their country’s resources and political relations. The work is elevated from the level of the inter-office team-building exercise thanks to some clever mechanics and performances from the company. Improvising as the bickering representatives of the nations bookending the archipelago, and as the news anchor summarising each phase of play (for which Rob Taylor-Hastings deserves a special mention), Hobo’s theatre deliver fun and satire in equal measure.
While designer/director Jamie Harper describes the piece not as theatre per se, rather more as a “game with dramatic elements”, Archipelago is a perfect way to close an evening of celebration of a theatre at which the sense of adventure, and of a welcoming community spirit, is palpable. Here’s to another 20 years.
20:20 Vision is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 18th September until 20th September 2014, for further information or to book visit here.